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LONDON – The voluntary approach to sustainability in the UK fashion and textile industries has failed – and the Government must act. That’s the claim of Mary Creagh, the Labour MP who led the recent Environmental Audit Committee enquiry into sustainability in the UK fashion sector. Creagh claims the UK Government, which rejected all recommendations of the enquiry, is massively out of step with public opinion. “We’d called on the government to end the era of throwaway fashion by making fashion producers responsible for their waste through a one penny per garment charge that would have raised £35 million a year to invest in clothing recycling,” she said. “Instead, we’ll have to wait up to five years while they consult on a new extended producer responsibility scheme for textiles,” she said.

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The UK Government recently rejected recommendations bythe Creagh-led independent Parliamentary enquiry aimed at cleaning up the fast fashion industry. Among other things, MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) had called for a charge of 1p for each garment to raise £35m a year for better clothing collection and sorting. However, the Tory-led Government said it would only consider such an option in 2025. The EAC, led by Mary Creagh, also called for a reduced rate of VAT on clothes repair services and for fast fashion companies whose products have lower environmental impacts to be rewarded by government schemes, with penalties for those that do not.

Talking to Politics Home, Creagh added: “With fashion purchases doubling over the last 15 years, the increasing volume of clothes outweighs any efficiencies made by the industry. The voluntary approach has failed, yet the government has rejected our call for the largest retailers to be mandated to sign up to an action plan to reduce their carbon, water and waste footprint. What a contrast to France, which introduced an extended producer responsibility scheme in 2007 which has created over 1400 new jobs. Their next move? A ban on the destruction of unsold goods, including clothing, from 2021. Yet the UK government has dismissed my committee’s call to ban the burning or landfill of unwanted stock.

“The Government isn’t listening and appears increasingly out of step with the public mood. Even retailers can see the way the tide is turning as more companies seek the green pound with newly launched ranges under ‘sustainable’ and ‘recycled’ banners.”

Recently, a new All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) was formed in the UK to analyse sustainability in the clothing and textile sectors. The group will bring together MPs from all backgrounds to probe issues around supply chains, fibres and materials used, and consumer behaviours. 

Apparel Insider recently caught up with Anne Main MP, chair of the APPG. Watch this space for full interview.

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